I’ve got this horrible White Snake song stuck in my head. You know the one that goes “here I go again on my ooooown” followed by some clunky power chords? It’s been on a seemingly infinite, really short loop (I don’t know the rest of it) in my head since Sarah dropped me at the bus bound for O’Hare on Monday. It’s Tuesday afternoon in Scotland as I type this on the Glasgow-Aberdeen train. I’m still traveling. On my own. Again.
It’s a great cosmic irony that a homebody like me is trying to make it in the world of travel writing/blogging/what have you. Especially as a solo traveler. Still trying to figure that one out. But I’ve traveled a lot in the last six months: five weeks in Argentina, three weeks in Scotland, one week in San Antonio, and now I’m on the front end of another five weeks in Scotland.
Sounds glamorous, right?
That’s how travel generally looks when there’s something worth escaping from. Whether it’s a job, toxic friends, or heinous home city – travel is often the clearest and easiest short-term answer to these problems.
But I love my home, my friends, my nearby family, my wife. Like it or not, travel is also an escape from those good things. For someone like me who likes routines and is prone to homesickness, solo travel can be mentally withering. I can hear it now, the world’s smallest violin.
There are weapons to fight this war: Skype, email, phone calls. I would have lost it long ago without these options, but there simply isn’t a replacement for the presence of a longed-for other. Travel is like a darkroom for the spirit, developing into focus what you really can’t live without. As much as it pains me now, I know it’s a damn miracle to see things so clearly.
Travel is like a darkroom for the spirit, developing into focus what you really can’t live without.
Sarah joins me in Scotland in just over two weeks. I wish my dad and the rest of my family could make it too; we had a great time together in 2009. These experiences are meant to be shared with loved ones. I think that’s what joy is.
I’ll probably tear up when I meet Sarah at the train station south of Aberdeen, but then I’ll rejoice because that damn song will have finally stopped haunting me. I’m not a drifter born to walk alone.
Plans & Happenings
I woke up this morning at the Skene House Rosemount in Aberdeen, jet lag free. It feels good considering how crippled by it I was in Edinburgh last month. Today is my first full day in Scotland on this five-week trip! Tonight I take the overnight ferry to the Shetland Islands to experience the Shetland Folk Festival and spend a few extra days exploring the islands. I’m excited to see how Shetland compares to Orkney and the rest of Scotland.
A week from today I fly back to Aberdeen, pick up a car, and head off to Speyside. Have I mentioned that I won the MoraySpeyside Tourism’s Best Holiday in the World contest? I’ll be meeting Rene Looper, the organizer of the competition, somewhere and partaking in a slate of activities throughout my week in Speyside. I’ve also got a series of appointments with distillers in the region, including Aberlour, Balvenie, Cragganmore, Glenfarclas, and Glenrothes.
Then Sarah arrives! I’ll pick her up at a train station around Aberdeen before we head to Ballater in Royal Deeside to enjoy the east side of the Cairngorms National Park. Of course we need to see the west side, too, so we’ll spend a few days in Nethy Bridge courtesy of HomeAway Holiday-Rentals.
We’ll head north of Inverness after that, to Black Isle. As Ian Rankin told me, it’s neither black nor an isle, but it’s still beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing Redcastle, home to one of my MacKenzie ancestors.
Our last week will be spent touring around the Isle of Skye. Its beauty defies a wordsmith’s craft, but I will continue to try my best.
Now I’m listening to that White Snake again and it’s not so bad. Lonely street of dreams? That’s pure poetry. What is it about travel that makes 80s hair metal/rock sound so good? I experienced a resurgence of appreciation for Bon Jovi on my 20-hour bus ride to Salta back in November.
Is solo travel easier for those without significant others?